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Does your teenager grunts when you try to engage in conversation? Do you suspect your teen is using drugs? Here we look at some signs and find out what you can do.

You suspect your teenager is using drugs. Are they not acting like the sweet child you used to know? Are they dropping school, skipping homework? Is their behaviour getting worse, are they stealing or swearing, drinking or smoking? Perhaps you don't like their "cool" new friends.

If you think your teenager may be using drugs, you may feel confused, angry, and disappointed. How could your child, the object of so many years of your attention and care, suddenly go so wrong?

Here, we look at signs your child may be using drugs, what to do if you suspect them, and how to approach your child.

Signs and Symptoms of Drug Abuse

If your teenager is using drugs, there will be signs to watch out for.

Behavioural signs and symptoms of teenage drug abuse:

  • Missing school:- showing up late, leaving early or not attending at all
  • Grades dropping: - even previously academic teenagers' grades will drop when they begin taking drugs
  • Getting in trouble at school: - has your previously-sweet teen been suspended for launching a vitriolic tirade at their teacher? Drugs could be to blame.
  • Asking for a lot of cash, with flimsy excuses; or
  • Missing money, valuables, prescription medication, or prescriptions:- if any items that can be used to buy drugs or used to get high go missing, your teen may be on drugs
  • Becoming sullen or withdrawn
  • Suddenly secretive:- teens who are on drugs may become suddenly obsessed with their privacy, forbidding you to go in their room and requesting locks for their doors.
  • Strange phone-calls at odd-hours from people you've never heard of
  • Sudden fascination with drug culture:- marijuana posters in the bedroom, obsession with celebrities who use drugs
  • Avoiding eye contact:- teens on drugs often have bloodshot eyes that they want to conceal
  • New "cool" friends that they won't introduce you to:- if your teen gets new friends, and never hangs out with them at your home, you should wonder what your teen thinks you may object to.
  • Getting into frequent trouble:- arguments with the family, sneaking out, breaking the law
  • Loss of interest in physical grooming

Physical signs and symptoms of teenage drug abuse:

  • Bloodshot eyes, or red and irritated eyes
  • Pupils larger (dilated) or smaller (contracted) than usual
  • Sudden weight loss or gain; loss or increase of appetite
  • If snorting drugs, may have frequent nosebleeds
  • Unusual accidents or bruises:- caused by bad coordination; your teen will probably not remember getting hurt
  • Unusual smells on breath or body
  • Slurring of speech
  • Shakes, tremors, sudden seizures.

Psychological signs and symptoms of teenage drug abuse

  • Sudden change in personality, or attitude to life: - e.g. ambitious teens losing interest in schoolwork
  • Sudden mood-changes:- e.g. irritability for no reason, sudden bouts of laughing at nothing, sudden anger
  • Unusual hyperactivity
  • "Spaced out":- a lack of motivation or interest, inability to focus, lethargy
  • Paranoia
  • Withdrawn
  • Anxious

Do those signs and symptoms ring a bell?

If your teen meets most of the signs and symptoms of drug addiction, look ahead to see what you can do to help your teen. Although drug addiction is a challenge, it is possible to overcome it, with consistent parenting and love.

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